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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Agents of Artifice - Chapter 1

After kicking off the story with a bang, it's time to slow things down a tad and introduce some characters.

Agents of Artifice - Chapter 1

We open up with a drunken man. A drunken man stumbling down the swampy road of a town called Avaric, on the plane of Ravnica. Everything is run down, and the main source of food is fungi supplemented with the occasional fish or reptile and yet this town is considered to be at least of average wealth. In fact, there is a celebration going on. Thralldom's End celebrates the end of the Guildpact but it's celebration that our drunken fellow Kallist isn't celebrating, but not because he wishes the Guilds were still around..

He eventually stumbles into his friend Gariel, and he drags out of him that the reason he's so messed up is that he was at the dance with his girlfriend where he proposed to her and all she replied with was, "I'll think about it." Considering how well he knows her, from normal people that would probably be a "no", but in Liliana speak that almost certainly a "no". Then the good supporting friend finds out that the girl who has crushed his friend's heart is still at the dance. It's unacceptable and he storms off to confront her.

(Oh cold-hearted Liliana Vess .)

...At the dance...

Liliana Vess has plenty of eyes on her and is dancing her heart out, on the surface at least. The smile she puts on is just for show, while her thoughts remain on Kallist. During the break, she sits and reflects on the people of her temporary home and how they seem to think their lives are particularly great despite not being able to look in any direction without seeing patches on their finest clothes. A pompous fellow tries to swoop in on her apparent single status and she blatantly shoots him down while wishing Kallist could have been there to see it have seen it.

(No so cold-hearted after all.)

"Hey Bitch!"

The yell comes from across the room and Gariel appoaches. But before there is anything to truly say, Liliana sees a sword flying through the air at her, with Gariel in the line of fire. Without any other choice, she knees him in the stomach causing the two of them to fall over. Not elegant, but it got the job done. She quickly stands and begins chanting words in a language that no one could understand if they could hear it. She speaks the words and a spectre of shadow with a corruption touch enacts her will.

The legs of a heavy table which stands behind her two attackers crumbles, catching one of them off guard as it falling into one of them. She uses the distraction to give a small slice across the other's wrist. He of course laughs off such a shallow cut, but the unseen shadow reaches in and the man quickly rots from the inside and falls down dead. The first attacker has recovered but is easily taken care of as  the spectre takes it to the nether realm before it can strike her, and she simply pokes her fingers into his eyes.

The cool and calm Liliana then helps Gariel halfway up, and then releases his arm so he can fall back on his face. The rude friend of her boyfriend deserved it after how he tried to open up a conversation. He's both confused and in awe (as are most of the partygoers), but before a real conversation can get going, they're interrupted once more. A crossbow bolt pierces the floor and we see that three more, what are now labeled as bandits and not assassin's as I had assumed) stand in the doorway, all armed with crossbows and angry at the deaths of their companions. They threaten to kill Gariel should any more magical death come their way and the threat words to stay her hand. Then they make their demands.

* * *


Alright. Having a book start off slowly to establish the setting and introduce characters should be expected. It went a little bit slower than I would have liked, but Marmell wanted to establish the plane, conditions of the town, the time of year (or more importantly the year in relation to Ravnica Block), and set up Liliana Vess.

I must admit that I wasn't expecting her to be the focus of Chapter 1. I was thinking that her and Tezzeret were introduced in the Prologue and the rest of the book would be all from Jace's POV. I assumed wrong. I also didn't expect Liliana Vess to be as humanized as much as she had considering her appearance on her card . But of course that's exactly why this chapter began with such a mundane event. I'm certainly intrigued as to where this is leading.


Had they been able to hear it over the ambient noise of a panicking tavern, that sound alone might have given her attackers pause. The tone was surreal, sepulchral, far deeper than Lilian's voice should ever have produced. The syllables formed no words of any known language, yet they carried a terrible meaning that bypassed the mind entirely, to sink directly into the listener's soul.

One thing I'm looking forward to reading in this book is exactly how the magic of the planeswalker's work. This is the era of the new planeswalkers, the no longer god-like planeswalkers, and I want to see if there is a consistency to their magic. Will they all be speaking words of power that no one else can hear? Or will their magic all be called forth in different ways, and the only connection between them all is their ability to planeswalk.

And I know I'm being picky, but I'm not fond of "sepulchral" as a word choice for the paragraph above. It is the word that perfectly describes the sound coming out of her mouth, but I must admit that I had to rely on the Kindle dictionary to tell me what it meant.

adj. of or relating to a tomb or interment: sepulchral monuments.
<SPECIAL USAGE> gloomy; dismal: a speech delivered in sepulchral tones. 

It's hard to ignore that word with the way it's embedded between commas and considering it's the build up to unleashing her first spell. It's a tense moment in the book, and I think more than a couple readers would be slightly taken out of the moment by an extremely uncommon word.

Kallist and Gariel

I'm surprised that two non-card characters were the characters that opened up Chapter 1. Will they have large roles in the book beyond a few chapters? I may be proven right as soon as next chapter with the death of Gariel being the point that triggers Liliana to go on a new path.

(Is this part of the complex plan? Or is this taking place before the Prologue. Something to keep watch for.)

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